When everything falls apart there are plenty of plans for “bugging out”, “bugging in”, and so forth. Whatever path you choose, things won’t return to normal soon and quite possibly never. Much has been written on beans, band aids, and bullets, but there will also be a huge demand for little things that we take for granted. Of course, there will be an even bigger demand for fresh food. Decent food is a major issue; you can’t live forever on storage foods, and most people can’t live forever in the woods. The following is information from our experiences to help those who have or will have a “bugging in” location.
Our Wakeup Call
We are older preppers, bugging in, who woke up and began getting ready several years ago after reading Rawles’ books. We obtained guns, ammo, pellet guns for small game, storage foods, and medical supplies. We established a library of books that possess information invaluable to our new life. (Old but not infirm, we are in much better shape after working these past several years.)
When I was young I met a woman from Austria who had survived the Holocaust. Her powerful comments about how no one thought it could happen in her beautiful and beloved Vienna stayed with me well into adulthood. Anything can happen. We believe it’s going to. We also believe that God has a purpose for everyone and that He has sent us in this direction. Where should we live and what are the priorities at our age? We had to make some choices, based on quality of older life and reduced income. We have faith in God and decided that our mission was to create a sustainable safe haven, if not for us at our age, then for someone.
The New Homestead
We sold our home and everything we deemed non essential– jewelry (though we kept gold for barter), antiques, and such– and moved to the Missouri Ozarks. We know about the concerns living near Whiteman AFB and the nuclear plant in Jefferson City, but we decided the advantages for us outweighed the negatives. The Ozarks have abundant water, clean air, wood for heating, fish and game, privacy without isolation, somewhat near to family, low property taxes, land that is not terribly expensive, and people who are friendly but respect our privacy. We are three hours from Kansas City and Costco and not too far from a Wal-Mart. The Redoubt is just too far away from family, and we intend to be a sanctuary. Unfortunately, no one in our family thinks we are sane, and we gave up trying to convince them. We will just welcome them when the time comes. It took us months to find the right place, finally purchasing 40 acres (half timber and half pasture) that has both a spring-fed pond that is filled with many fish and also good, clean, well water. We are on a paved county road but are surrounded by trees for privacy.
We built a small, energy-efficient home with ICF (Styrofoam) blocks, concrete, and rebar; it has metal siding, a metal roof, and a large basement root cellar. Shutters on the side look like décor, but they are metal and easily closed. We bought a shipping container to store our tools while building, then buried it along side the house to use for storage. The root cellar has a hidden wall where we store many of our survival provisions. We purchased some inexpensive guns to use as a decoy. We have two safes– one for discovery, if overrun and invaded (if we had to surrender to survive), and one that is well hidden where we keep the good stuff.
We bought a chain link fence on Craig’s list and fenced in several acres. We needed to keep the deer out and also provide security without seeming to build a fortress. We planted dozens of rugosa roses along the bottom of the fence. They are extremely thorny and make a good fence by themselves. The added bonus is that they have large rose hips, which provide a base for tea that is rich in vitamin C. We also planted hedges of thorny blackberry bushes, which provides both a deterrent and food. Indiana Berries is an excellent source for all types of berries.
We lived in a salvaged fifth wheel trailer that my husband fixed up to live in while building the house, and we sold it for what we paid for it. My carpenter husband can build and fix anything necessary for our projects. However, he is a city guy and knew nothing about animals or growing. I was a professional cook, not a gardener or farm person. So, we had and still have a large learning curve.
Repopulating Food Sources
We built a well-insulated, concrete-floored chicken house and a strong fence, deciding that keeping predators out of our food source was worth the extra expense. (Although, at times, we have felt that the chickens had better living conditions then we did.) These are our egg producers, but at two years of age become stewing hens. We are building a chicken tractor, and this spring will raise and harvest meat birds. We use Joel Salatin’s books for reference. He is the guru in pasture production of beef and poultry.
We bought an incubator and have hatched out chicks. It is not hard at all. I dehydrate chicken eggs for our storage foods, freeze beaten eggs for us when the hens stop laying, and the dogs get scrambled eggs on top of their kibble.
We also have guineas; they’re loud but great tick eaters and daytime watch dogs. Plus, they are quite delicious. There are some issues with guineas. They are really still somewhat wild. They’re often hard to get back into their house; we have lost half to predators. They lay their eggs outside in a clutch that is well hidden, so become an attractant for raccoons, skunks, et cetera. Also, the dogs find the eggs, eat the whole thing, and then throw up. It’s not pleasant. Uh, did I say they are loud!?! I’m not sure they are worth the effort.
We have meat rabbits, which provide a food source, but just as important they are a great source of fertilizer for the garden. Rabbit droppings can be used right away in the garden, without having to compost. We learned the hard way that wood should not be used to cage rabbits; it becomes urine soaked, so use metal cages only.
Still, you will need to learn to compost, since you won’t be able to easily get fertilizer for your garden when things get rough. We have worm bins, since worms are an excellent maker of compost. They eat your coffee grounds, bones, and the other stuff that you don’t give to the chickens. There are several exceptional books on composting, The Complete Compost Gardening Guide by Pleasant and Martin is a good all purpose book.
When learn about aerobic compost tea, I used Jeff Lowenfels book, Teaming with Microbes, along with anything written by Elaine Ingram on aerobic compost tea. We use this type of tea, and it is amazing how well the plants and trees respond.
Comfrey has turned out to be one of the most important plants on our property. It makes an excellent compost tea. The leaves make a great mulch and fertilizer for the fruit trees. The plants themselves are dynamic accumulators in the orchard, the long tap roots bring up vital minerals. The chickens and rabbits appreciate the fresh leaves. My husband appreciates the poultice made with comfrey leaves to alleviate muscle sprains. I add chopped comfrey leaves to the raised beds for fertilizer. Research comfrey and you will be amazed at the efficacy of this plant in many areas. The old timers knew how to use it. We planted the Bocking 14 strain, which is not invasive.
An Orchard with Pollinators
Before we started the house, we planted fruit and nut trees and an asparagus patch, since they take several years to produce crops. We prefer semi-dwarf trees, as they bear earlier and are easier to harvest and net to protect fruit from marauding birds.
Please note that if you start with inferior trees, you will never have a quality, producing tree. I have ordered trees from many nurseries, trying to buy local. However, the best trees in my orchard came from Trees of Antiquity. They really care about the health and packing of their trees, plus their catalogue is extremely informative. I have ordered dozens of trees from them and only lost two, which they immediately replaced. It is important to note that fruit ripens at different times and some keep better than others; this is especially true of apples. Arkansas Black apples taste much better several months later. Knowing this type of information can keep you in fresh fruit a great deal longer.
Certainly fresh fruit will be at a premium, but remember that you can make apple and pear cider, hard cider, and also dry fruit for future use and barter. Before we sold our house and moved, I bought ten apple trees that I planted in 25-gallon grow pot bags; then, I took them with us. They were happy and healthy, and we were years ahead with some fruit production that way.
Before we installed the fence, the deer were ruining our fruit trees. A spray of garlic, eggs, and hot pepper works to ruin their appetite. The retail deterrents are extremely expensive and use the same the ingredients as our homemade one. In one gallon of water, mix three heads of garlic (separated into cloves), six broken eggs, and some red pepper powder. Let this sit in the sun until extremely pungent. Strain it and spray on the trees. It keeps deer and rabbits away. (It also keeps husbands away, if the wind switches!)
The Holistic Fruit Orchard by Michael Phillips (and his earlier book, The Apple Grower) are my go to books for my orchard and berries. He presents integrated planting ideas to help with pest control and fertilization that have proved to be effective in my situation.
We have Italian honey bees but also have encouraged native pollinators, which are extremely important to food growing efforts. Orchard Mason Bees made a huge difference in our orchard, and I highly recommend them. We built homes for them, purchasing a few starter bees, then the native population showed up to live in their new abode. Our fruit production has markedly increased. Bumblebees, certain types of wasps, et cetera all are necessary for pollination. Research native pollinators in your area.
You really need to learn to garden– a learned craft that is rapidly disappearing. We had and will have major failures, but we consider them to be part of the learning process. I’m amazed at how many people say, “I will just grow a garden, if things get rough”. Just sticking a seed in the ground won’t get it. You need to invest in both learning and good tools. Having well-made guns and knives is important but so is having good garden equipment. Also a library of reference books is extremely important. Keep hard copies, not relying on your kindle. I mention the ones I consider essential throughout this article. Too many gardening books just reiterate the same old stuff, and I went through dozens.
As stated before, obtaining decent, healthy food will be a continuing issue. The good news is that in most locations you can grow food almost year round with cold frames, hoop houses, low tunnels, or caterpillar covers. We originally wanted a green house but after studying hoop houses, built a large one. They’re great for year round gardening. We use all Elliott Coleman books; he’s a guru in four seasons gardening and hoop house production. Our hoop house is 30×72 feet. It has a roof top vent and a white shade cloth, which is important in hot weather. (We are zone 6.) We installed roll-up side panels and put plastic netting on the inside to keep out rabbits, et cetera. For winter last year, we erected a mini green house inside with pink Styrofoam insulation panels and a top made of acrylic cell panels. We put a small space heater inside and protected our lemon, lime, and fig trees. They survived and produced fruit.
It is amazing what we have grown in our hoop house. We have raised beds, giant grow bags (from AM Leonard) and Israeli stacking strawberry planters. We grew indeterminate tomatoes (trellised up a string), peppers, melons, Swiss chard, kale, radishes, peas, lettuces, and more.
We grow potatoes, tomatoes, and pole beans in grow bags. They can be expensive, but AM Leonard sells a “root pouch” for a reasonable price. We buy hog panels, bend them into a column, and place them around the root pouch as a trellis for the cucumbers, determinate tomatoes, et cetera.
We grow vegetables outside in raised beds. Since our area is rock rather than dirt, we purchased old stock tanks, punched holes in the bottom, put in a layer of drain rock, covered the rock with landscape fabric, and filled the tank with soil. In these raised beds, we grow sweet potatoes, white yams, squash, melons of all types, and beans.
We started a corn patch using the American Indian method of three sisters gardening– corn, beans, and squash together. These three plants compliment and enrich the others soil requirements. Plant squash around the base of the corn and the beans use the corn stalks for support. The squash also deters the raccoons from eating the corn, since they won’t walk over the prickly leaves. Research the varieties that grow well in your area. You want the corn to grow before the beans take over. I like Bloody Butcher corn. Some seed companies sell the three together.
Besides the books I mention throughout this article, my essential library contains the following books, which are all well-written and highly informative:
All books by Elliot Coleman, worth mentioning twice.
Barbara Damrosch, Coleman’s wife, writes excellent gardening books.
Gardening When It Counts: Growing Food in Hard Times by Steve Soloman, (only this book; not his earlier ones.) His recipe for compost and soil is excellent.
The Resilient Gardener; food production and self-reliance in uncertain times by Carol Deppe is excellent. (She lists five foods you need to survive and thrive– potatoes, corn, beans, squash, and eggs.) She also sells survival-type seeds.
Suzanne Ashworth and Nancy Bubel both have excellent books on seed starting and seed saving.
Guide to Country Living by Carla Emery is essential
Old Time Country Wisdom and Lore by Jerry Mack Johnson is interesting. (I like a recipe for peach leaf bread starter.)
John Jevons is a gardening guru in small areas with usable information. He demonstrates how you don’t need a lot of land to be productive.
Permaculture is a buzz word, but it is essentially using everything on your property for the highest and best use. There are many books on permaculture. I believe Sepp Holtzer’s book is excellent in explaining how to make any property more productive.
The Resilient Farm and Homestead, by Ben Falk, is another outstanding resource book.
The Cornell University website has much useful information, and you can download and print out their offerings.
You will need to start seeds and think about what to use. Some seeds are harder to start than others, and very few germinate 100%. Some companies, like Johnny’s, list the germination rate, which helps in planning. Research your growing season and what does well in your area. You need to determine how you will start seeds. You may use grow lights if you have power or window sills if you don’t. You need a seed starting medium and some type of container or soil blocks to get them going. I don’t like the jiffy pots that are sold in the big box stores. They usually don’t break down in the soil and take the water from the seedlings. Cow pots (yes, from real cows) work well, as do small, Dixie cups. Also, you can make seed starting pots from newspapers using a wooden pot maker that is available from most gardening companies for about $15.00.
I bought some inexpensive, little souvenir spoons and an appetizer fork at a thrift shop to use as tiny seed starting tools. I use chopsticks to poke holes for the seeds. A small hand-held device with a dial-a-seed setting (about $5.00) will help you not waste seeds. When saving seeds, what will you store them in? We save pill bottles, which are good storage for small seeds. Large seeds are stored in small, plastic bags. We use the food saver and seal both of these in plastic, to further keep out moisture, and then we store the plastic bags in a non-working freezer in the root cellar so there is no temperature fluctuation.
You need to store non-GMO, non hybrid seeds. My favorite sources for seeds are Seed Savers, Baker’s Creek, Johnny’s, Territorial Seed Company, Nichols, Southern Exposure, Annie’s, Irish Eyes, Pinetree, Fedco, The Ark Institute, and sometimes Burpee. Joining Seed Savers is a good way to read the information from other gardeners in your growing zone. All the seed companies’ catalogs are full of useful information. I especially support Seed Savers dedication to preserving the right of Americans to have a seed library in their area. Pennsylvania and Maryland have outlawed home gardeners from establishing a seed library to exchange seeds. This is a stupid over-reaching act, trying to control the food source by outlawing gardeners who are simply trying to help other gardeners!
There are many types of plants unfamiliar to most American gardeners that are well worth checking out. Seaberries are extremely popular in Europe, hardy even in Siberia, and are a great source of vitamin C; they make a tasty juice.
Cold-hardy Kiwi are another unusual find; we love them. Raintree Nursery and One Green World are good sources and were the original providers and promoters for these plants. We planted native elderberries and aronia bushes. They are good for vitamin C and can help ward off colds. Stevia plants provide a great sugar substitute and are very easy to grow and dry. Oca and Yacon (from Peru) are easily grown is most areas, providing a different root crop.
Grow Culinary Herbs
They are easy, and you will use them to flavor both stored and fresh foods, preventing food fatigue. Many are perennial, such as thyme, sage, and tarragon. Dry the herbs, preserve them chopped up in olive oil, or freeze them in butter.
After you have your comfrey patch planted, think about some other medicinal herbs. My reference books include:
Rosemary Gladstar, the queen of herbal remedies, has several excellent books. My go-to is her book, A Beginner’s Guide, 33 Healing Herbs to Know, Grow and Use.
Grow Your Own Drugs by ethno biologist James Wong. This is another fabulous resource. He lists the top 100 plants to treat arthritis, coughs, and more. Wong hosted the award-winning BBC series.
The Herbalists Way by Nancy Phillips (wife of Michael Phillips) is another top book in my library.
You will need good equipment that lasts. Think garden with power and garden without power.
Garden Hoses: Get quality hoses; the cheaper ones split. Rub the hoses with peppermint leaves so the mice don’t eat them. Get the Dramn red head watering head; it has many small holes and doesn’t beat down the plants; it’s also excellent for seedlings.
Watering cans, trowels, spades. Get quality not quantity. Since I am a short woman, I purchased a “Hers” spade from Green Heron tools. It’s perfect and saves my back. The “cobra” weeder is fabulous and my favorite tool, acting as an arm extension. I use it for everything from weeding to planting.
I purchased many of my tools for the garden from Johnny’s Seeds. The Eliot Coleman designed products are well designed and well made. Yes, they’re expensive, but we consider them long-term investments.
If I can find decent old garden tools at a sale, they are usually rusty. Evapo Rust is a great product for cleaning rusty things. It’s much easier than the more toxic types of rust removers.
Stock pile sharpening stones and files.
Magnifying glass. You will need one for insect and disease identification, along with a reliable picture. Your extension office usually has brochures to identify native pests.
Israeli garden tub trugs. Although I am not a big proponent of plastic for the long haul, I discovered Israeli garden tub trugs and now have several. They are washable, bendable, crushable, and nearly indestructible, and they’re freeze and boil proof. They have strong handles (a lab puppy can, however, eat the handles) and are so malleable that I can both carry dirt and also use them to water plants. Get the real ones; the knock off copies don’t perform nearly as well.
Perennial plants. Think perennial vegetables. Asparagus, rhubarb, horseradish, and dandelions are the most well known. We planted Jerusalem artichokes, apios (earth nuts), and ramps (wild leeks) in an area where they can grow and run wild. The Egyptian walking onion is self seeding, thus perennial; some potatoes are perennial. Mint can be invasive, so be careful where you plant it. We want the invasive factor around the barn and hoop house. Rodents hate mint, and they hate peppermint the most and will not walk across it. Real peppermint is difficult to purchase. Many vendors sell peppermint mint that is not the real thing. I used Burpee and Johnny’s and was very happy. It’s easy to propagate after you have some started.
Fodder system. We purchased a fodder system from Farm Tek, which is highly recommended. The system is simple, saves an amazing amount of water, and provides fresh fodder for the chickens and rabbits plus sprouts and greens for us. It took a while to get used to it, but the results are amazing. We have fresh micro greens all year round. There are many plans on the Internet, if you want to build one.
Learn To Cook
This may seem basic, but I am amazed at how many people don’t know anything. If you learn the basics and craft of cooking, you will be able to make meals without a recipe. Remember that the old timers didn’t have cookbooks for everything. Make your own cooking “bible” for family favorites. Knowing that you can make stock with your roast chicken bones, boil corn cobs to make light corn stock for soup, dry tomatoes and make tomato powder, all will make life tastier.
The following books will give you some basics.
The Fannie Farmer cookbook
Pan Anderson: How To Cook Without A Book
Rulman: Ratios Rulman: Twenty Techniques
The LL Bean Game and Fish Cookbook
You will need to preserve your harvest. There are many ways beyond freezing and canning.
The Art of Fermentation by Katz. Fermenting foods is almost a lost art, but we consider fermentation essential to preppers. Besides providing a delicious result, fermented foods have proved to be extremely beneficial for health.
Preserving Food Without Freezing or Canning, (using sugar, salt, alcohol, vinegar, etc.) by Madison & Coleman.
Any book by Stanley Marianski on smoking meats, making sausage or building your own smokehouse
We started filling the coffers with “small stuff” and submit the following should be on every prepper’s list.
Everybody thinks about soap, but you also need a wash board, agitator, and large metal wash tubs. Large wash tubs will become a necessity. Cheap plastic tubs will soon split and break. The wash board gives you a backboard to use to scrub the clothes and is great for rubbing out stains. The agitator looks like a plunger, and you use it like one. Clothes in a wash tub won’t come clean without agitation of some type. Store a supply of rubber gloves to wear when washing clothes. Chapped hands are painful and open you up to infections.
Get a recipe for making your own laundry soap that you like and stock up on the ingredients.
Stock clothes pins and clothes lines. The imported cheap clothes pins fall apart and aren’t strong enough to hold up heavy jeans. The old clothes pins are the best. Go to garage sales and estate sales in older parts of town. The old timers usually had them. Lehman’s catalog has some made from hay bale covers. What ever you get, make sure they are sturdy.
You need someplace clean to dry your clothes. Make sure you have enough cord to make a clothes line. We purchased a strong “umbrella” type of clothesline dryer. Then you don’t have to find two trees.
Having a sewing basket will be paramount. Clothes will need to be mended, buttons sewed on, and so on. If you can, find a working treadle sewing machine. Buy thread, buttons, safety pins, and other sewing supplies. (Get a large supply of safety pins; they will be invaluable.) The fabric stores often have online coupons; use them and buy the biggest packs along with good scissors and scissor sharpeners.
Stock rags and have a rag bin. There is always something that needs to be cleaned up, and paper towels will be a luxury. Take the buttons off old clothes, save them, and save the zippers, buttons, et cetera. I buy old clothes at thrift stores when they have percentage off sales. Jeans are used for patches and cotton clothes for rags. For towels and sheets, I go to garage sales, estate sales, and auctions.
Stainless metal mixing bowls, strainers, sieves, measuring cups, and spoons are necessary. You always need a large stock pot and large bowls. If you plan on canning or any other type of food preservation from your garden, metal bowls are a must. You can wash produce in them and serve a lot of hungry people from them. They last, will not break, and are light weight. Restaurant supply stores and Sams Club have them in stock. Another good place to look is the discount stores like TJ Maxx and Marshalls, found in metropolitan areas. They may or may not have them, but when they do the prices are excellent.
Stock up on cast iron pots and pans. Again, they last. I have found great deals on Lodge cast iron, which are still made in the U.S.A., at the above mentioned discount stores. The old time pans, like Wagner and Griswold, have become as expensive as collectibles but sometimes can be found at sales or auctions.
You need really good kitchen knives. A chefs knife, paring knife, and long serrated knife are basic. Again, check out the discount stores. I have found Wusthof, Henckel’s, and more at them. My Henkel’s knives are over 25 years old. My favorite knife of all is a red-handled Victorinox serrated knife paring size. It is a great kitchen knife and a perfect harvesting tool in the garden. (The red handle makes it easy to find in the lettuce.) I give this as gifts, and it becomes everyone’s favorite knife. It’s also sold by Johnny’s.
Canning jars will be in great demand, so for your own use or barter, either way, get them. Also, buy Tattler reusable lids. They might seem expensive but will become invaluable. Lay in a large supply of canning jar rings. Get a pressure canner and a water bath canner. Get an electric dehydrator and learn to use it now while prepping your supplies. The canning jars also are used to store dehydrated goods. Get the plans for a solar dehydrator (found online), and even if you can’t make it now, get the materials now (just in case). Mother Earth published an excellent solar plan.
We went to garage sales and auctions and watched Craig’s list. We bought several chain saws, a log splitter, canning jars, lids, pressure cookers, canners, garden tools, treadle sewing machine, cast iron cookware, farm equipment, jars of old buttons, clothes pins, nut crackers, meat grinders, quilts, oil lamps, and candles this way. It can be time consuming but can save a lot of money. If going to several sales in town, make a map of your route to save time and gas.
Having a supply of sunglasses is a must. Keeping your eyes safe is paramount. Again, find them at discount outlets and make sure they are UV treated. Stock pile several dozen along with safety glasses. Stockpile gloves for washing clothes, gardening, and other uses. Good tweezers are a necessity to deal with splinters and tick removal. Get some with the magnifying glass attached. Again, I have found great deals at the discount stores, so stock up.
Take care of your feet. Buy extra boots, shoes, and socks. They will be hard to come by after everything falls apart. Buy good nail clippers, not the cheap knock-offs made in China. They rip and don’t clip. It’s extremely important to keep ingrown toenails under control. FootSmart catalogue has excellent products for foot health. Their Mehaz toe nail clippers are made in Japan and are heavy duty.
Think about mosquito spray, citronella plants, rat traps, glue, and sun block. Also, stock up on Q tips, cotton balls, paper, pens, pencils, paper clips. At an estate sale, these items often can be bought for a few dollars for a large box, since the heirs don’t want to deal with them. Tecnu (used by the forest service) for poison oak and ivy is helpful, too.
We have found that our prepping efforts have led us to a much more serene lifestyle. Learning to be self sufficient, not needing as much “stuff”, eating a better diet, and spending more time outside have contributed to our sense of well-being. Our future goals include getting either goats or cows for milk and cheese, building a bread oven, growing wheat and more corn, building an aquaponics system, and establishing a network of like-minded people in our area. We are praying for the best and preparing for the worst. If nothing happens in our lifetimes, then our place will be a family and friend refuge, always believing “if not for us, then for someone”. Only God knows.